“This is an Outrage” -- Senator Hassan Also Demands Justice for Paralympic Swimmer Forced to Quit Team USA due to Unfair Restrictions
WASHINGTON -- At a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) questioned three top administration officials helping lead the federal COVID-19 response - Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dawn O’Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
Addressing Childhood Vaccinations
Senator Hassan asked Dr. Fauci about the timeline for vaccine authorization for children under 12, stating that “I am encouraged that clinical trials for young children are underway, and am hopeful that we will see the same safety and efficacy that we have seen from previously authorized COVID-19 vaccines.”
Dr. Fauci responded that the federal government should have enough data by late fall or early winter, and that then the Food and Drug Administration will make regulatory decisions on authorizing the vaccination for that age group.
Senator Hassan has worked to improve vaccination efforts for Granite Staters and Americans across the country. Earlier this year, Senator Hassan secured a commitment from a top federal health official that the next round of COVID-19 booster shots would be free to Americans. Senator Hassan also has led calls for improved access to vaccines for individuals with disabilities and successfully pushed for bipartisan legislation to expand COVID-19 vaccines to all veterans and their caregivers through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Strengthening the National Stockpile
Senator Hassan also highlighted the importance of strengthening the Strategic National Stockpile.
“Last year many states, hospitals, and first responders struggled to acquire personal protective equipment, and the federal stockpile did not contain the supplies needed to fulfill their requests for help,” said Senator Hassan. “The stockpile also contained many expired and unusable products, which further limited its effectiveness.”
Senator Hassan recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Cassidy that would address this issue in the future; during the hearing, O’Connell said that she would look forward to working with the Senators on this legislation.
Fighting for Paralympians
Senator Hassan drew attention to the inequities that USA Paralympians are facing at this year’s Tokyo Paralympics—namely with the case of six-time Paralympic medalist Becca Meyers, who won three gold medals in the 2016 Rio Olympic games and was slated to compete this summer in Tokyo. She, and other athletes from Team USA who experience disabilities, are being denied adequate access to personal care assistants because of rigid COVID-19 restrictions.
“Individuals who experience disabilities should not be forced to navigate the Tokyo Olympics without the support that they need in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Senator Hassan.
On the news that Meyers has been forced to withdraw from the Paralympics team because she is being denied a reasonable accommodation, the Senator said, “This is an outrage – and a preventable situation that should never have gotten to this point. So I want the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee to work immediately to address this issue, and I want them to ensure that all of our athletes are able to compete safely at this summer’s games – including by providing them the basic supports that they need just to navigate the world.”
Dr. Walensky stated, “I share your concern – we have dedicated resources specifically to disabled communities.”
“I just want to be clear that for some people with disabilities, the accommodation, the aid they need is another human being,” continued Senator Hassan. “And it really needs to be seen as the same kind of accommodations we would make in other situations.”